Antioxidants Might Benefit People with Asthma

BACKGROUND: Free radicals may stimulate the release of inflammation- promoting compounds in the body. Several small clinical trials have found that people with asthma (an inflammatory disease of the airways) experience elevated levels of free radicals, and antioxidant defenses might also be compromised.

RESEARCH: Researchers compared the oxidant/antioxidant balance in white and red blood cells of 38 patients with mild to moderate asthma to 23 healthy subjects. White blood cells may be a major source of free radicals believed to be involved in asthmatic reactions. Red blood cells are thought to be a pool of antioxidants.

RESULTS: Compared to healthy controls, patients with asthma had increased levels of free radicals from white blood cells, as measured through a variety of techniques. They also had higher levels of superoxide radicals, nitrites, protein carbonyls, and lipid peroxidation (all indicators of increased free radical activity). Levels of some of the body's endogenous (self-produced) antioxidants were increased in white and red blood cells, possibly in an attempt to counter-balance the free radicals.

IMPLICATIONS: The researchers concluded that antioxidant supplements might be of benefit to patients with asthma. They wrote, "The observations in the present study also have clinical implications. Demonstration of a shift in oxidant-antioxidant balance in favor of the former suggests that augmentation of the antioxidant defenses by means of therapeutic interventions might be beneficial."

Nadeem A, Chhabra SK, Masood A, et al, "Increased oxidative stress and altered levels of antioxidants in asthma," Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2003;111:72-78.

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